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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #1: Preseason Edition

I answer your questions before the new season.

SFChronicleVirusElection Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

tinioril asks:

How are those player report cards coming?

Anyway. Moving on...

shoogymgshoogs asks:

How does Stephanie White still have job?

Well, frankly, I was not expecting the first mailbag question to be about the women’s team, but since I wasn’t specific about which basketball team we were talking about, I’ll go ahead and answer it.

For now, I’m just going to go ahead and not touch the role that Candice Lee played both in White’s hiring and continued employment. White’s records in four years have been 14-16, 7-24, 7-23, and 14-16 last year. Her four-year SEC record is a ghastly 13-51. What seems to have been saving her job, if I’m just looking at the product on the floor, is that they seem to have been hammered by injuries every year, and recruiting seems to be going reasonably well. Then again, in her third year, the roster was depleted from the jump because a bunch of players left the program, and that’s either a sign that she’s running players off or that players are bailing on the program, and you really have to start asking questions about why that would be.

I mean, the short answer is that I don’t know the answer to this question. I can try to rationalize it in the same way that I might try to rationalize how Derek Mason still has a job, but at least Mason has been to two bowl games in six years, which is actually a relatively good record at Vandy. And I can’t really say that for White. So I’ll just chalk it up to few people really passionately caring about the women’s basketball team; certainly, there aren’t a ton of high-level boosters who are going to raise much of an eyebrow that the program has bombed over the last four years.

Will we also play in the last game of the 2021 SEC Tournament?

You know, I’m just not going to be all that shocked if there isn’t an SEC Tournament at all this year.

parlagi asks:

Do you think there will be out-of-conference games?

East Tennessee State and UT-Chattanooga have women’s games scheduled against Vanderbilt in December. I haven’t seen any scheduled for the men’s team.

Do you think those games happen, or do you think the SEC switches to a conference-only schedule like football did?

I think they won’t cancel the non-conference schedule unless they absolutely have to. The men’s team will play in the Legends Classic — moved from Brooklyn to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut — along with UConn, Notre Dame, and USC on December 1 and 3. But that’s all we really know at this point. It’s going to be shorter than usual; I wouldn’t be that shocked if Vanderbilt only plays four or five nonconference games, with no buy games in there (because those really aren’t worth it if you’re not selling tickets anyway.)

jessecuster44 asks:

Seeing as how keeping the VU football players COVID-free was so successful...

What are the chances of the MBB (and WBB) roster(s) staying functionally intact this winter? And by functionally intact, I mean being able to have a bench depth of at least four for each game.

It really depends. It’s a lot easier for COVID to take out an entire basketball team than an entire football team; then again, you don’t really have to be super concerned about depth. You can field a basketball team with only six or seven players. To answer your question, though, I would say the odds of that are basically nil. We’ll have players miss games here and there and that’s just going to be a fact of life this season.

ComestippleSacksoun asks:

Many disastrous things could happen to ruin this season. Which one(s) will?

So, the good news about this season is that there’s no single player whose absence could tank the entire season. This year’s team isn’t going to have a future lottery pick on it, so we can rule out another injury doing that.

The downside to that, of course, is that if nobody steps up their game, this basically turns into last year’s team if Saben Lee had also gotten injured. And I don’t think any of us want to see that.

Andrew VU ‘04 asks:

Sweet Holy Moses, what was with that “Brick by Brick” tweet from the shooty-hoops team? First, Butch Jones says hello. Second, bricks are generally a thing to avoid in basketball. Is the reincarnated Anton LaVey (nee Jerry Stackhouse) trying to push us completely over the edge after this monstrosity of a feetball season? Is this stupidity or malice?

I’ll chalk this up to Vanderbilt firing its entire athletics communications team. Because any Anchor of Gold writer could have seen that tweet and said “hey, maybe not tweet that out.” Then again, when we did have a dedicated athletics communications team, they actually tweeted out a graphic that read “We DON’T need your permission.” So this is stupidity, not malice.

RocketCityVandy asks:

On a scale of football to baseball, how much hope should I have for basketball this year?

It’s going to be better than football, if only because (a) they’ll probably win a game and (b) a rebuilding year under a second-year coach just feels a lot different than a rebuilding year with a seventh-year coach whose best season thus far was 6-7 with a loss to Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Stackhouse also passed the credibility test in his first year in a way that Mason really didn’t.

That said, this clearly isn’t the baseball team, which will probably contend for a national title. The basketball team isn’t going to do that.

VU1970 asks:

Will it be the men or the women who finish with the best won-loss record?

The women’s team will at least be worth watching this year, because I think Koi Love looked like a future star as a freshman, and the sophomore class just in general is solid. That said, I also have to consider who’s coaching the teams, and that leans me toward the men’s team.

BlueDore asks:

With Aaron and Saben gone, will Scotty or Dylan lead the team in point production this year?

Or do the player report cards need to be done before this can be answered?

I actually think the answer is “neither.” Scotty averaged 12 ppg as a freshman, but I think of him the same way I probably should have thought of Riley LaChance when he did that as a freshman: a guy who’s probably already pretty close to his upside and will just be a 12-point-per-game scorer for four years. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t look at him and see a guy who’s about to average 15-20 ppg. As far as Dylan Disu goes, well, there’s plenty of upside there, but unless he’s improved a lot since last season, he’ll probably top out in the low double figures this season.

Instead, I think the correct answer is D.J. Harvey — you know, the guy who averaged 10.7 ppg at Notre Dame a couple of years ago and then had a year off to work on improving. My guess is he’ll average somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 ppg and that will lead the team.

Cooper O. asks:

Q: What are the chances Vanderbilt wins greater than 40-50% of its conference basketball games this season?

Q: Do you believe Vanderbilt has a chance of being a top-five SEC basketball program in the next five years?

To answer the first question: 40% of its conference games would be around 7-11 over an 18-game schedule. That’s certainly doable though not particularly likely. I’d really guess more like 5-13 or 6-12 and, after the last two years, we’d certainly take that. But there are too many good teams in this conference to hope for much more than that.

To the second question, well, that really depends a lot on whether Jerry Stackhouse sticks around. I think Stackhouse’s job is pretty secure for at least the next three years; if he isn’t Vanderbilt’s basketball coach in 2023, it’s because he doesn’t want to be. Recruiting isn’t going great, but he’s at least recruiting at a Kevin Stallings level thus far and not like a Darrin Horn level, and he appears to be a very capable coach. So I think he can get them there within five years... but, again, that comes with the caveat that he might decide he’d rather coach in the NBA.